Is There a New Space Race?

This evening Space X and private-sector billionaire innovator Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket will make a history.  For the first time ever a previously launched rocket will be sent back into space from Cape Canaveral and is expected to again return to the launchpad successfully.  The accomplishment propels NASA and the U.S. space program unchallenged to the front of the pack of countries, including China, who are making dramatic advances into the final frontier.

Is this our next step in a space race against China?

Most experts say the comparison with the American and Russian race to the moon is misplaced.  “Planting flags and footsteps isn’t really the way they see to win the game,” says James Oberg, a former NASA engineer who now consults with NBC news on space developments.  He says the value of demonstrating to a nation and to the world that you have the educational, technological capability to land a man on the moon had more value than collecting moon rocks for scientific study.   “The space race, the moon race and the U.S. victory, was enormously significant, worth far more than we paid for it,” he says. “Space allowed countries like the U.S. and Russia to demonstrate that they did, or in Russia’s case didn’t, have those capabilities. “

“To think of the U.S. and China in space as a race sort of oversimplifies the landscape.” Says former Space X communications executive Phil Larson.  He argues, similar to Oberg that space, and moon shoots, are where countries validate superior capabilities that are primarily manifest on terra firma. ““I think the point of why we went in the 60’s and why China is focused on there now is to create the jobs of the future.”

Former NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson echoes the sentiment that there is a greater benefit to working with China than working against them.  “I think it would behoove us to investigate how we might be collaborators with china.  I think in the end if we work with other countries in space we don’t fight them on the ground,” he suggests. 

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